Starbucks CEO warned operations may have gone ‘sour’ at Starbucks as employees fight for a union.
Howard Schultz, 69, sat down with CNN’s Poppy Harlow in an interview released Tuesday to discuss the ongoing union efforts and his belief they don’t belong at America’s biggest coffee chain.
Schultz, 69, served as CEO of Starbucks until 2017 before later stepping in as interim in 2022 to fix the company’s deteriorating ‘values’ as employees protested for better pay and benefits for part-time employees.
‘I’d be first to say the union showed up because Starbucks was not leading in a way that was consistent with its history in terms of being a valued based company, and I came back to restore those values,’ Schultz told CNN.
‘The efforts of unionization in America are in many ways a manifestation of a much bigger problem.’
Howard Schultz, 69, sat down with CNN’s Poppy Harlow in an interview released Tuesday to discuss the ongoing union efforts as he prepares to leave Starbucks for good
Schultz served as CEO of Starbucks until 2017 before later stepping in as interim in 2022 to fix the company’s deteriorating ‘values’ as employees protested for better pay and benefits for part-time employees
Schultz stepped back into his former roll last spring, months after the first Starbucks in New York voted to unionize.
‘I came back this last year because the company really did loose its way and its lost its way culturally,’ he said.
The businessman has since pushed for store managers to halt union organization efforts calling, ‘a new, outside force that’s trying desperately to disrupt our company,’ according to More Perfect Union.
Starbucks is known for offering generous benefits to full-time and eligible part-time employees – an act Schultz claimed was inspired by watching his father and their family struggle financially.
Benefits offered include a 401k retirement plan, paid time off, health coverage, tuition coverage through Arizona State University programs and parental leave.
‘Unions in America, for the most part, have existed and succeeded in the past, because of companies that did nefarious things on the backs of their people. That they put their people last instead of first,’ Schultz said.
‘Now, let’s look at Starbucks. Starbucks employees, 450,000 people around the world, 250,000 people in the US in our stores, we provide unprecedented benefits not because a union told us to but because the conscious of the company and my own life story is based on trying to build a company that my father, a blue collared worker, was not given… those rights.’
Schultz (left) has been accused of union-busting by shutting down unionized stores over ‘safety’ issues and firing baristas heavily involved in union efforts
Employees have spoken out about the pushback they received from higher-ups to agree with their terms.
‘The company refuses to bargain with us,’ an employee told CNN. ‘We’re understaffed, we’re underpaid, they’re playing these games. The corporate is setting the tone of what to expect for the labor movement in the future.’
Schultz said the company is willing to sit down and bargain in person, but those pushing for the union insist on meeting virtually.
‘We are willing to sit down and bargain in person,’ Schultz said. ‘In 10 months, I’ve done everything I possibly could to address the problems from our people.’
As Shultz prepares to leave Starbucks behind permanently, he reflected on how the coffee chain has succeeded for decades.
‘We’re not a perfect company,’ he said. ‘But I’m saying this because we didn’t have the union or an outside party tell us what to do, we did this because we want to be in service of our people.’
Schultz said the company is willing to sit down and bargain in person, but those pushing for the union insist on meeting virtually
Starbucks employees are refusing to halt their union efforts as several protest broke out last year.
Workers across 100 stores in the US protested in December as Schultz continued to push back against unionization efforts.
The protest consisted of more than 1,000 baristas and resulted in a three day walkout, according to Starbucks Workers United, the labor group organization.
Employees have blasted Schultz as a union buster and accused him of firing employees involved in the effort and closing stores.
The first store to close was in Seattle after cafe workers voted to unionize.